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Number the Stars | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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Number the Stars | Afterword | Summary



This is a note from the author detailing which parts of the novel are true. Lowry informs readers the inspiration for Annemarie's character was "Annelise Platt, to whom the book is dedicated, who was herself a child in Copenhagen during the long years of German occupation." Lowry said she was moved and very interested by Annelise's descriptions of the suffering and sacrifices her family and neighbors endured during the German Occupation in Denmark and by Platt's descriptions of the heroism of the people of Denmark during that time. What Annelise Platt told Lowry was her inspiration for writing Number the Stars. Lowry details the aspects of the reality of the story setting, the deprivations, and the Danish devotion to their king. She also discusses the reasons behind the quick Danish surrender to the Nazis and notes the truth about the Danes' feeling they were all King Christian's bodyguards is true as well.

The details of the rescue of the Jews are also historically accurate. G.F. Duckwitz, a German diplomat living in Denmark, passed on the warning to the local rabbi that Germans were about to round up Danish Jews on Rosh Hashanah. The rabbi then passed it on to his community. Lowry writes, "[the Jews] fled the first raids. They fled into the arms of the Danes, who took them in, fed them, clothed them, hid them, and helped them along to safety in Sweden."

Lowry further explains the chemical-laden handkerchief was historically accurate as well. Swedish scientists designed it because the Nazis were using dogs to locate Jews hidden on ships. Apparently, the chemists created a powerful powder composed of dried rabbit's blood and cocaine. The cocaine acted to temporarily deaden the sense of smell of the dogs.

The final aspect she addresses is the character of Peter Neilsen. She writes, "I came across an account of a young man named Kim Malthe-Bruun, who was eventually captured and executed by the Nazis when he was only twenty-one years old." She discusses him and includes an excerpt of a letter written by him to his mother the night before he was killed.


Lowry's book relies heavily on historical facts, events, and people. She has taken an episode of hope that occurred during a time of great darkness and written about it. As part of that, Lowry has added a chapter at the close to discuss some of the historical details for readers.

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